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Vail Daily letter: Not buying school district’s need for tax hike

Gemma Shepard
Vail, CO, Colorado

Colorado passed a bill in 2007 (HB-1244) mandating that gifted education be placed in the special-education department, meaning that Colorado recognizes that gifted students need to have special services in order to meet their educational needs, just as children who have learning disabilities need special services in order to fully access the academic

curriculum.

Recently, parents of the Eagle County School District’s elementary school children received a letter stating that no longer will the school district be administering testing at the schools to evaluate and place children in the gifted program.



Instead, parents can request that their children be tested, and they may sign their children up by Sept. 15 to be tested on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Brush Creek Elementary. The cost for testing will be $20 to $25, depending upon the child’s grade level. Children who receive free or reduced-price lunch will be charged $5.

Never would Eagle County Schools require that a child with a learning disability pay for their own testing in order to determine what services they need. Never would Eagle County Schools require that a child who speaks English as a second language pay for their own testing to determine their level of English proficiency so that they could receive the support that they need. Nor would Eagle County Schools require any of those parents to sign up outside of school and be tested at one single location on a Saturday.

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What we hear when we question this practice is that the school district is facing a serious budget shortfall. We’ve been hearing this from Eagle County Schools for a couple of years now.

Many district employees lost their jobs last year, and undoubtedly, many more will lose their jobs this year.

We know the budget woes – most of us are facing them ourselves. We are all learning to do more with less. Our teachers have larger class sizes but are rising to the challenges that are facing them.



Our administrators, however, seem to feel that the solution to our problem is to pass more costs on to the parents, place a bigger burden on our teachers and continue with business as usual.

A quick look at the Eagle County Schools website, and a search with the term “financial transparency,” should serve to enlighten us all as to what this means.

Take a moment and look at where our school personnel who have purchasing cards spent our money – money that should have gone to our children.

Some of the top beneficiaries of the school district’s largess are restaurants, with totals like $2,280.85, $3,978.62, $1,601.24, $1,102.72, $811.13, $1,186.39, $947.19 and $1,476.67. Business services spent $1,382.98 on pizza in June alone.

If an administrator wants to go out to eat or take some colleagues out for dinner, then they’re welcome to do it on their dime, not ours. We don’t need district employees to stay at Hyatt hotels when we all know that there are budget options. To find out that we had a hotel bill from Brown Palace was a surprise, given our dire financial straits.

The solution is not to make parents shoulder more of the burden. The solution is not to raise the property tax rate in order to put more money into the Eagle County School District’s bank account.

The solution is to stop wasting money. I would encourage you to take a look at how our school district employees spend our money, while loudly crying poor, before you think of giving them any more of it.

Gemma Shepard


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